Libraries Struggling to Afford New E-book Demand

With the advancement of technology, libraries are finding it difficult to keep their shelves stocked with e-books. Read more about it here!

Book Culture Book News
Image of fingers pointing at a tablet reader.

As technology advances, the world of literature has expanded with it. Traditional print books have begun shifting to digital books. However, despite the convenience they offer, accessing these digital books can pose significant challenges to libraries, particularly due to high costs and restrictive licensing agreements.

A Cost Barrier

One of the primary challenges in accessing e-books is the high cost associated with purchasing licenses. Unlike physical books, which can be lent out multiple times without additional fees, e-books often come with hefty price tags and limited licenses that last only one or two years, or 26 checkouts, whichever comes first. Regular e-book readers can read their books until their tablets run out of battery but libraries have to keep renewing licenses to rent out this type of material.

Person in suit holding a burning 100 dollar bill.

A relatively well-funded library in West Haven spent more than $12,000 over three years to lease 276 digital titles. If that amount of money had been spent on paper books, it would have covered roughly 800 titles that don’t have to be renewed and could have stayed in the loaning cycle for years and years.

Publisher Challenges

Publishers argue that the arrangement is fair because e-book licenses for libraries allow readers to borrow them and the cost per reader is less expensive than the reader rate. E-books have risen in popularity since COVID-19 and some readers are stuck on long waiting lists for these books. Librarians have pushed for legislation to control the costs of electronic material with strong opposition from the publishing industry by arguing the legislation undermines intellectual property values.

Imagine if a playground was built at a school with tax dollars, only to be taken down after two years of use.

Colleen Bailie – Librarian

Unless something is changed with this system, libraries will continue to hemorrhage money for half the gain that printed books could offer. In an increasingly digital world, access to literature should not be determined by economic status or geographic location. Overcoming the barriers to e-book access requires a concerted effort to ensure that knowledge remains accessible to all.

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